Hard Habit To Break

Happy New Year to you all my lovelies. Whatever difficulties you may have faced last year, I hope you are full of enthusiasm for the coming twelve months. For anyone feeling forlorn at the thought of twenty twenty-one, please bear in mind the wise words of my dear old Mama who always says, “onwards and upwards”. Or as the nineties pop sensations, D-Ream so eloquently put it, “Things Can Only Get Better”. 

I have never been one for New Year resolutions, I see the coming in of a new year as a chance to reflect on the previous year, and a time to look at all of the aspects of my life for which I am grateful. Of course one can make plans and dreams for the coming year, but I truly believe that ought to be an ongoing process as we learn to dance through life, not something only to be thought of on January the first. 

A scientific study once proved that by January the twelfth, nearly sixty percent of people who had made New Year resolutions had failed to keep them. Being a lover of words, I have a theory about this. The word itself is a no-no in my eyes. Resolution. It is so final. So demanding. So aggressive. Such a simple thing as replacing the word resolution for the world goal may help to make whatever change you may be looking to make much more achievable in my eyes. It is infinitely more flexible. And flexible is a lovely word, no? It allows for little slip-ups here and there, which are inevitable.  

I have a few tips out there for those of you who would like to make a few changes to your lives. I used to smoke around forty cigarettes a day and did so for nearly twenty years. I kid you not when I say I tried to stop smoking roughly four million times in the last decade of my life as a smoker. I was resolute in my determination. And I failed every time. Then, one morning, when I was halfway through my first packet of Marlboro reds, I realised it was a habit, not an addiction. I crumpled the remaining cigarettes into a ball and threw them in the bin. I replaced it immediately with a different habit. Long, deep, slow breaths every time I would have had a cigarette. Upon waking up, my first cup of coffee, walking to work, the first annoyance of the day, immediately after lunch, etc etc. Habits are very funny things indeed. That was over a decade ago. And my new habit still takes precedence over my old one to this day. 

If you have set some goals for yourself this year, and we are talking specific small achievable goals here, not climbing Mount Everest or becoming the World’s Strongest Man. Both of which I failed at miserably one year. Looking back they were rather ambitious. But what I learnt was that I only made goals from that point on that I considered achievable, and one easy way to help yourself with achievable goals is to introduce them as new habits directly before an old habit. Per esempio. If you have decided you would like to take up meditation, yoga, or even a good old ten-minute stretching session, you are far more likely to keep it up if you attach it to an existing habit, something you do every day, like brushing your teeth. It will seem less like a chore and become a part of your daily routine as quickly as I can eat an entire box of Quality Street, I promise you. 

The most important thing I have learned along the way though is to be kind to yourself. If you have decided to stop smoking, and you slip up one night at a cocktail party, do not call yourself a failure and slip back into your old habit of twenty a day again. See it exactly for what it is. A slip-up. You can start again with your new regime every time. Attacking yourself will only make things harder. As a very theatrical old man once said to me, “if you are going to beat yourself up, it should always be with a feather, never a cricket bat”. Wise words indeed. 

Which leads us nicely on to my goal for the coming twelve months, for anyone who is remotely interested. Kindness. Much more of it. To myself, and to others. Navigating our way through this crazy thing we call life is hard enough without attacking ourselves and each other. So my goal, not my resolution, is to bring kindness to any difficulties I may face in the coming months. If you are attempting to make changes in your life, may I suggest you give it a whirl too? It will alter the way you look at any difficulties which may arise. I give you my word.

Benjamin Milton
Benjamin Milton

Benjamin is a writer and actor who spends his time pirouetting between London and Malta. He was inexplicably drawn to the silver screen at a young age, and has seen more films than have been made. He will talk of nothing else given half a chance, so be prepared if you bump into him at Geo F Trumper in St. James having his moustache trimmed. His biggest indulgence is his fine collection of New & Lingwood silk dressing gowns, which is growing at an alarming rate. He looks fabulous in them

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